San Francisco’s cocktail bars are filling their menus with sugar, spice, and everything nice. From cozy classics to new, creative drinks, some of your favorite bars are mixing up plenty of holiday cheer with their winter cocktails. Check out our list of holiday cocktails to try in SF before the season is over.
1. Santa’s Pick-Me-Up at the Vault Garden
The themed holiday bar transforms the Vault’s garden space into a winter wonderland. The bar has specialty holidays crafted just for the season, and we recommend Santa’s Pick-Me-Up, a festive take on the coffee cocktails we all know and love. This rich and complex holiday drink is a must-try made with mezcal, tequila, burnt orange, vanilla, and coffee syrup. Plus, the extra boost of energy is always appreciated.
Location: Plaza Level, 555 California Street (FiDi)
2. Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista
The Buena Vista has been perfecting its Irish coffee recipe since 1952. They now serve up to 2,000 Irish coffees a day. Variations include the Screwball Irish Coffee with peanut butter whiskey, Nutty Irishman Coffee with Frangelico and Bailey’s, and Chocolate Coffee with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur.
Location: 2765 Hyde Street (Fisherman’s Wharf)
3. Hot Buttered Rum at Smuggler’s Cove
This renowned 3-story tiki bar has an encyclopedic knowledge of classic and modern tropical drinks and an award-winning rum selection, boasting upwards of 1000 rums. The hot buttered rum comes with their house-made spice batter.
Location: 650 Gough Street (Hayes Valley)
The whisky bar is a must-visit all year round, but they really pull out all the stops for the holidays. The cozy bar isn’t just decorated in the spirit; they also created a holiday menu, with the House Fresh Eggnog being a highlight. Add Ferrand Ambre cognac and Plantation Original Dark Rum (or both) to create the perfect spiked eggnog drink. We recommend the Hot Spiced Cider or the Frozen Irish Coffee for more holiday favorites.
Location: 3200 16th Street (Mission District)
Alembic is known for its rotating menu of seasonal drinks, so it’s no surprise that they go all out for the holidays. This version of the classic Tom & Jerry cocktail includes berteaux cognac, white & brown dark rum, winter spices, whole egg, and milk. It’s served hot in its own special mug, and it’s the perfect drink to enjoy in cold weather and with good company.
Location: 1725 Haight Street (Haight-Ashbury)
Located a few blocks from Ocean Beach, Outerlands has always had a knack for serving up cozy, warming meals and drinks to cut through the persistent Outer Sunset fog. Their spiked lemon ginger apple cider is available all year long, but this drink feels perfect around the holidays. It can be ordered with any spirit, but bourbon is an excellent choice.
Location: 4001 Judah Street (Outer Sunset)
7. Love Actually at Gambit Lounge
It’s the season for holiday movies, and nothing beats this Love Actually inspired cocktail at Gambit Lounge. The cocktail includes gin, muddled cranberry, tangerine, and fresh lime for a refreshing holiday drink. Plus, you can always follow the Love Actually with a perfectly sweet Espresso Martini with vanilla.
8. Mistletoe Martini at Cavaña
Cavaña has a special holiday cocktail menu perfect for ringing in the Christmas Cheer. We recommend the Mistletoe Martini made with Christmas gin, Douglas Fir, Bay Laurel, and dry vermouth. If you’re not feeling a festive martini, they have a total of 10 holiday cocktails on the menu you can try, including a Wonderland Old Fashioned and Jingle Juice.
9. Jingle and Jammin’ at Horsefeather
This bar and restaurant is offering a menu of specialty holiday cocktails, and the Jingle and Jammin’ is their take on a classic eggnog. Made with Spanish brandy and pineapple-infused rye, this cocktail is dusted with rice-crispy treats for the perfect twist on a holiday favorite.
By Jamie Ferrell and Dana Flynn